Treasure Trove: David Matlow revisits the historic Second Zionist Congress of 1898

The Second Zionist Congress took place in Basel, Switzerland 125 years ago, from Aug. 28 to 31, 1898.  In all, there would be 22 Zionist Congresses before Israel’s independence in 1948.

Reflecting the progressive nature of the Zionist movement, female delegates were accorded full voting rights at this congress. (At the time, the only country where women had equal voting rights was New Zealand.)

One of the Congress’ most significant accomplishments was the establishment of the Jewish Colonial Trust, a financial institution that funded development in the Land of Israel including the purchase of the land that became the city of Tel Aviv.  

Four hundred delegates attended the Second Congress (twice the number of delegates at the First Congress). This was the first Congress attended by Chaim Weizmann, the architect of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, who would go on to become Israel’s first president.

At the opening of the Congress, Theodor Herzl said, “We are ready to bring about the reconstruction of Judaism; we have everything in abundance, men, material and plans. What we require is the soil…no one will deny that there is an unbreakable connection between our people and this land.”

All the Congresses were open to the press. This is a press pass for the Second Zionist Congress.  For a complete photo gallery of Second Zionist Congress items in the Treasure Trove, visit